Taconic Mom's DNA to Be Extracted From Toothbrush

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Diane Schuler was drunk and had high levels of marijuana in her system on the day she drove the wrong way on the Taconic and caused an accident that killed eight people.

    The relatives of the woman who was drunk and high when she caused a crash on the Taconic Parkway that killed eight people want to extract DNA from her toothbrush in an attempt to prove -- or disprove -- the autopsy results were hers.

    Toxicology reports indicated that Diane Schuler had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 -- more than twice the legal limit -- when she drove nearly 2 miles the wrong way on the highway and had smoked marijuana as early as 15 minutes before, officials say.

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    The family of Guy and Michael Bastardi say the actions of driver Diane Schuler were, "incomprehensible." Toxicology results was both high on marijuana and drunk when she got behind the wheel of her minivan. (Published Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009)

    The DNA testing is part of an attempt by Schuler's relatives to discount claims she was drunk and high at the time of the crash, which killed Schuler, her daughter, three nieces and three Yonkers men in an SUV. The coroner has adamantly upheld his findings.

    But Schuler's family still isn't satisfied.

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    "When we can get the actual specimens and samples and body tissue that was retained by the medical examiner ... we can be assured that the lab test samples - blood, urine, eye fluid - to make sure that the sample that they're about to test is Diane Schuler's," Thomas Ruskin, an investigator hired by the Schulers, told Lohud.com. "Just to be 110 percent sure."

    Earlier this week, Dominic Barbara, attorney for Schuler's husband, Daniel, announced that Diane Schuler's body would be exhumed at her family's request.

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    "Yes, the body will be exhumed," attorney Dominic Barbara told Larry King this week. "It's not automatic, but we have enough cause and reason to."
     
    Daniel Schuler, who appeared on "Larry King Live" with Barbara, refuses to believe his wife was intoxicated at the time of the horrifying July 26 accident.
     
    "I believe she had a stroke - something to do with her teeth," he told King. "Maybe medically she was messed up."
     
    Ruskin told Lohud.com the exhumation would "take a long time," but other experts say it could be a relatively simple process, provided her family members give written consent.

    It costs more than $3,000 to exhume a body and then rebury it, Peter Ryan, assistant director of Westbury's Cemetery of the Holy Rood, where Schuler is buried, told Lohud.com. Ryan told the Web site there are about 15 to 25 exhumations a year.

    Getting the DNA sampling from the toothbrush and retaining private pathologists to evaluate it would likely incur larger bills for the Schulers than the exhumation.

    Even before Dominic Barbara announced the Schulers' intentions to exhume Diane's body and sample her DNA, the family of two of the Yonkers men killed in the crash expressed their frustrations with Schuler's family.

    "The lengths these people are taking to deny reality are just astounding and painful to my clients," Irving Anolik, attorney for the Bastardis, told the New York Daily News. "The fact remains that Diane Schuler was drunk and high when she killed all these people and the facts aren't going to change."

    The Bastardis, who intend to sue Daniel Schuler in civil court, have their own concerns about the autopsy. They wanted officials to test hair follicle samples from Diane Schuler, which can reveal drug use dating back for two months. Westchester officials confirmed a hair follicle test hadn't been conducted, and one said that such tests typically weren't used in accident investigations.